In IT the winners will be the ones who provide clients with real business value – says Paweł Paluch Business Development Manager
Paweł, how did it happen that you started working at Goyello and why did decide to join the team?
It was by pure accident. One day my wife was browsing job offers, looking for something new for herself. She found Goyello’s offer which perfectly matched my job profile. She suggested that I should check it out. I don’t usually argue with my wife so I sent my application. I thought it would be good to get to know new people and a new environment and compare it to the one I worked in then. When I got to know Peter Horsten and learned what kind of business personality he was, I immediately got convinced I needed to change jobs. And that’s how I joined the team.
Were you looking for a new job then?
That’s the point – I wasn’t. That’s why I came here with my mind open, with no pressure that I need to change jobs whatsoever. Several people at Goyello had an impact on the fact that I finally took the decision to join: Rafał Borowiec, Kasia Szemro and most of all Peter, whose attitude was so much different to what I had known before.
What’s interesting, the decision to join the team was the quickest decision regarding my career I have ever taken. I started working at Goyello a week after the initial meeting with Peter. It’s been two years already since I first came here.
People often think only software developers work at IT companies. You are a business development manager, not a developer. Why is such a position necessary for a business operating in the IT industry?
In my opinion, every business should work like a well-oiled machine. We all work towards our company’s progress, better results and better recognition in the market. The truth is developers do a huge job and their work can be noticed immediately as they create tangible products. However, you have to be aware of the fact that there wouldn’t be almost 100 busy developers at the company if someone else didn’t meet clients and close contracts.
The work in every project begins much earlier and before it actually starts the marketing and sales forces are involved. People from the marketing and sales meet clients and discuss all the details of a project that is to be started. The outcome of those meetings and discussions is a project specification that is handed over to the development team. Only then can developers start their work. Everyone in this chain is equally important.
What are your duties at Goyello?
I am the first one to get in touch with clients. My role is to match what Goyello has to offer to what our clients need. Together with clients we try to find areas in which we can help them develop their businesses.
Before you joined Goyello you had worked for several Polish companies. At Goyello the management is Dutch. Can you see any differences in work culture or the approach to management and if you can, what are those differences?
I definitely see a number of differences, especially related to work culture, although I don’t claim every foreign business is similar to Goyello. What I mean is not only the management style, the atmosphere at the office or the personal approach towards every employee. What is the most important at Goyello is the customer-centric approach.
Peter Horsten is the person who had the biggest impact on what Goyello is like today. And Peter is a real businessman. He understands business, he knows well what clients may need and how we can address their expectations. At Goyello we don’t create solutions that end up in a dustbin labelled “Software history”. We develop products that perfectly fit into our clients’ needs and let them develop their businesses. That’s what I meant by the customer-centric approach above.
Does it mean Polish companies have not adopted such an approach yet?
They have, but the truth is Polish Millennials as well as older generations had nowhere to get business knowledge from, while in the West such knowledge has been available for years. We, the Poles, don’t have that inborn business gene people from the West have and we didn’t have enough time to develop it, either. Fortunately, the situation is improving. Polish business has become much bolder. More and more companies from Poland operate in foreign markets. They are recognised and much appreciated there.
Goyello has adopted the Agile methodology. What does it mean to you?
Agile lets you be very flexible in any project you take part in. You could think: „Flexibility? Ok, so there must be chaos, as well.” That’s not the way Agile works, however. What is the most important in Agile is the fact that at every stage of a project development or even before it starts, when you sign the contract, your client can change their business priorities.
Software we develop addresses the needs of its end users. You cannot stop the trend most companies follow today. And end users would like everything to function in a simple way, similarly to social media where anything they want is within their grasp. That’s the path business follows as well and companies must be ready for this. That is why a product owner has to be flexible towards ends users of the solution he or she is responsible for. And we as the solution provider have to be flexible towards the product owner.
Agile lets us run any project in such a way that in the end it always serves its purpose and is exactly what its end user expects it to be. At the same time, we are able to provide our clients with real value.
There is no risk that at the final stage the client will tell us that meanwhile their expectations or legal conditions changed so the outcome does not meet their needs any more. Agile lets us take small steps. At every stage of the development you can change the initial idea or even finish the project earlier than planned if the business objectives have been reached. That is why for over 8 years Agile has been our basic project management methodology at Goyello.
I usually discuss Agile related topics with developers as they are the ones to use on a daily basis. Is Agile helpful in your work as well? If so, how do you benefit from it?
As I have already mentioned, Agile lets you pursue your goal in a number of small steps. The path that leads to it is a winding one and you never know what awaits you round the corner. You have to be ready to go off the beaten track, to walk a mile or two on grass growing by the road, or to omit a stone lying in front of you. Despite all that you constantly see your goal on the horizon and you walk towards it, taking into consideration the changing conditions around you.
If I followed only one path from the very beginning to the very end of my journey, I would stop when I saw a stone falling down just in front of me. In Agile I can get around it and continue my journey. Agile is a mindset, they say. In my opinion it is also a personality feature that prevents you from wringing hands when you face an obstacle. Instead, you look for ways of overcoming it. Such an approach is useful at work but also in your everyday life, at home, in your relationship with your partner. Agile simply encourages you to be ready to find a different path from time to time.
Developers I talked to told me about clients who had not worked in Agile before. They had to convince them to start using it. Do you also educate clients on Agile-related topics?
The answer to this question shows that IT and business function in two completely different worlds. One of them is the world of developers and technical people. They have an easy task, because there are more and more clients whose IT departments have already adopted Agile. So you don’t have to teach them what Agile is all about.
The other world is inhabited by people who are responsible for presenting the offer and closing contracts. They talk to managers and people from the clients’ legal departments. An obstacle they often come across are non-agile contacts that have been formulated with great precision to protect clients’ interests. Such contracts often make it difficult to act in a flexible way. So, as you can see, there is plenty of space for education here. I always do my best to convince clients and their legal departments that in the end they will always benefit from a flexible contract.
You have recently started to deal with international clients apart from Polish ones. What can you say about differences in their attitudes towards cooperation with an IT company?
The most important difference I have noticed is related to the level of knowledge in various fields. Polish clients possess enormous amounts of knowledge about technology. Foreign clients lack it a little. Instead, they know much about business and economics. That is why foreign clients who are aware of the fact they know little about technology have to place a lot of trust in us here. And they usually do. They make us fully responsible for the entire development process because they know we are experts in the field. However, the fact that they have little knowledge about technology may sometimes be a problem. Some clients may think any changes they suggest can be quickly implemented, while many of them can’t.
Also, the business gene I have already mentioned is much better developed in the West. That is why it is always much easier to work in line with the Agile principles with foreign clients. They don’t expect contracts to be so precisely formulated. An approach that is very commonly adopted is time and material, which means that clients are aware of the fact that the more changes they request, the more time the team will need to implement them.
Are companies in Poland and abroad curious to learn about new technologies and ready to invest in them?
Industries that invest the largest amounts of money in technologies are banking and financial services, both in Poland and all over the world. In Poland we are amazed by technology. What I have always found incredible about our country is the fact that we make such huge steps in our technological development. Let’s take card terminals for example. In Poland wireless card machines are available at every newsagent’s, while for instance in the Netherlands they can hardly be found in shops. The reason for this is, in my opinion, that in Poland we have to be quick to catch up with the West. That is why we skip intermediate stages and push forward, making such enormous steps.
However, we must remember technology itself does not create business. We have great engineers, but, as I said, we lack the business gene. We will be able to innovate only when we combine business and knowledge about technology.
So we can say that the combination we have at Goyello – a businessman from abroad leading a team of Polish software engineers is the best one?
That’s right. It is a perfect combination, especially when we take into consideration the fact that Peter is a mentor for team members who meet clients, including developers. He teaches us how to properly deal with clients and makes it possible for us to adopt the business gene and the specific attitude towards business we should have learnt at school. It’s really great to have someone willing to share such valuable knowledge.
Goyello has recently surveyed a number of small and medium-sized companies from Pomerania. The results of the survey show that one in four entrepreneurs has problems communicating with the IT industry. Can a person like you, operating where business and IT meet, can make such communication easier?
I was not surprised by the results of the survey. I have been aware of the problem for the last 7 years of my career. What can we do about it? As an IT company we have to make an attempt to understand what triggers entrepreneurs’ decision making and what their objectives are. We have to be aware of the fact that their main goals are to create, to increase their revenue, to develop and to leave something behind.
Fortunately, more and more IT managers take postgraduate business courses, for instance MBA, which lets them better understand their clients’ expectations. Their knowledge of technology can in such cases be used to address business needs. And that’s the best combination of competences you can think of. You cannot find it in every company, however. That is why people like me are needed.The times of typical sales people, running around with nicely wrapped products, are long gone. My role is to match our clients’ needs with the know-how the team and I possess.
What was the most interesting project you have taken part in at Goyello?
Our cooperation with Wolters Kluwer Polska is such a project. It was not the largest one I took part in but the most interesting one, that’s for sure. Thanks to joint efforts of the whole team we convinced the client we deliver real quality. They know they can trust us. As a result, we have an agile contract and a number of ambassadors in the client’s organisation.
Thanks to the cooperation with Wolters Kluwer I also got a great new friend. He works at Wolters Kluwer and we have a similar attitude towards project development. We both know what business approach to adopt with clients. He also understands his customers and knows how to validate a product that is just about to be created. It seems he subconsciously uses the Lean Startup methods so our Agile approach fits perfectly there.
A positive aspect of our cooperation with Wolters Kluwer is also the fact that every second lawyer in Poland will use the solution we are developing at the moment. Apart from that, a side effect of our work for that client is that we started to cooperate with the Polish branch and now we begin to run larger and larger projects for their international branches. The organisation has approved the quality of our work, so now it is much easier for us to develop solutions that would meet international customers’ needs.
What aspects of your work give you the biggest satisfaction? What do you like most about it?
I think the greatest satisfaction is when you see that a solution you have developed has a positive influence on our surroundings and everyday lives. For instance, it makes communication or work easier or more straightforward.
Let’s take the project for Wolters Kluwer I have mentioned. Every one of us needs a lawyer at some stage of our lives. And lawyers are Wolters Kluwer’s customers. They use software we co-created. It makes their work faster and more effective so they can offer us much better service. As a result, we, their customers, benefit from the fact they use it.
What I like most about my job is the product ideation – the stage when the idea of a new project is created. My head is full of ideas then and I’m very much eager to act at the same time. I don’t want to wait but I’m much willing to listen to what others have to say about what we are doing together. These are features that let me easily cooperate on creating solutions as well as be a good consultant and advisor.
So far you have been working on your own. A new team is currently being gathered at Goyello and you are going to be a member of that team. What does that change mean to you?
In fact, even if it looked as if I was a sort of a “lone wolf”, I have always been working as part of a team. Due to the fact that only one person contacts the client and that’s usually me, it may seem I work on my own.
As a matter of fact, that the team I belong to at Goyello is getting a clearer shape. When I say “the team” I mean people who generate ideas together with clients. That’s the future if IT. The IT industry cannot function in isolation, ignoring clients’ business needs.
And after hours? What do you do in your free time?
I used to paint and I would like to get back to that hobby. What’s really interesting, I don’t have any of my paintings at home. I gave them all to different people.
And why did you take up painting? Have you ever studied it?
Not at all, but I have always had a sort of flexible wrist, great for painting and drawing. It turned out oils and watercolour on canvas are the easiest techniques for me. Canvas are a very Agile material, a very forgiving one.
And apart from painting… ?
Like almost everyone else at Goyello I do sports. Despite being very active at work, I spend plenty of time sitting, which is not very healthy. I also have flexible working hours and travel a lot, which does not have a positive influence on my body, either.
I’m aware of all that, that is why twice a week I go to a gym. Recently I have started to do rollerblading again. At weekends I walk and cycle a lot. Sometimes I play golf.
Together with your colleagues from Goyello you are going to take part in Runmageddon. What made you decide to participate in the race?
Well, Runmageddon is an interesting challenge. Runmageddon is a night race. You have an hour and a half to cover the distance of 6 km and overcome 30 obstacles on your way. There is a container with ice-cold water you have to swim in, then you crawl under barb wire or use a rope to get to the other side of a pool. So, plenty of running, sweating, heaps of mud and a lot of things going on around you. That’s what I really like.
Do you have any dreams you would like to come true and can share with us?
Regardless of what I have just said about what I do after hours, it’s my family – my wife and two kids –I spend my free time with. Everything I do, I do for them. My 6-year-old son has a knack for entrepreneurship and plenty of interesting ideas. I help him develop them and make him aware of various dependencies there are in business. We both like working together on his ideas in a more structured way.
My dream is to help my children have a better start and better lives than we had. We wanted to create things, were thrilled about economy and entrepreneurship but there were plenty of limitations to overcome at the same time. The limitations slowly disappear so if I can help my kids and move forward quicker and more easily, I’ll do anything I can to make it happen.